It’s no secret that one of the things I love most about music is its inherent power to change how we feel. It brings us joy when the world is dark, it brings us connection when we feel alone, it brings us confidence when we feel doubt. We’ve all felt the changes a great singing session can bring, whether we’re belting out hits in the shower, singing into our hairbrushes with friends, or lending our voices to a choir like Sing Portland!

We know music has the power to bring change to our hearts and minds but I suspect we often forget the power of music to affect “real world” change, change that goes beyond the individual.

With the power of music, we shall overcome.

We see this transformative power of music particularly in the folk music tradition and great artists like Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Harry Belafonte. Grass roots music has always held a key role in the quest for social justice. It’s been the cornerstone of some of our most important movements.

Just think of the music that was created and inspired by the labor movement, the civil rights movement, and the social changes that we saw in the late 1960s. Think of Joan Baez’s version of the old African-American song “Oh Freedom” as she stood side by side with Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, in Washington in 1963 and the message this sent to the world as she sang, “Before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free.” Think of Seeger’s adaptation of “We Shall Overcome” sung by friends and neighbors, black and white, a sign that they shared a common goal, that they were all in it together.

The folk songs that arose from these social struggles challenged the status quo and united people in a way that nothing else could have; they gave people a shared identity, a common history, and a bond that stretched beyond the music itself.

The times they are a changin’.

Today, it seems, we need this kind of grass roots music more than ever. We need a way to find common ground and heal the divides growing in our society. So this September at Sing Portland!, we’re dedicating a whole term to folk music. We won’t be singing protest songs, rather we’ll be focusing on music that will lift and inspire all of us, whatever we’re fighting for or against. We’ll be exploring music that will help us get in touch with the things we truly stand for and connect us with other singers and with our community; music that will bring us all together, when the world is trying to break us apart.

Whatever your struggles, whatever motivates you, we’d love to welcome you in September for our new term of folk music as we change the world one song at a time!